The Conscience Side of Life
Rev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources
Simply speaking, Christian Life Resources divides its work into two areas – service and conscience. The service area involves the work we do in our care centers, the presentations we give, and the work we accomplish at New Beginnings – A Home for Mothers. The “conscience” aspect of our work looks at the challenging life and family issues we face and holds them up to the light of Scripture.
Stem Cell Research
Increased Stem Cell Production – A study using treadmill-trained mice has revealed aerobic activity actually stimulates the production of mesenchymal adult stem cells, the type that mature into bone rather than fat. What does this mean (to ask the old Lutheran question)? Increased bone cells improve blood production to mend damaged bones and tissues in humans as well as improve immune reaction and wound clotting. It should be emphasized that this type of research looks at the way adult stem cells work – not their controversial embryonic stem cell counterparts.
Baldness – Another study on adult stem cells suggests a possible remedy for baldness. Researchers have discovered stem cells identified in the skin’s fatty tissue send signals to trigger hair growth. The research now moves to an exploration of the ways those stem cells can be nudged to send their signals.
Sustained Embryonic and iPS Cells – Researchers may have solved the problem of viruses infiltrating the work with embryonic and iPS cells. Embryonic stem cells are called pluripotent cells, meaning they can differentiate into many other different kinds of cells. In order to keep those cells from differentiating before they are needed they are treated with what are called “feeder cells.” The problem with these feeder cells involved their potential to introduce viruses which could become harmful to humans. Researchers now believe they have made progress in controlling that danger. While we continue to have trouble with embryonic stem cell experimentation (since life in its earliest stage must be terminated to harvest those cells), the use of iPS cells (induced-pluripotent cells) from adult stem cells does not cause controversy.
Colon Stem Cells – After ten years of research scientists have discovered a way to sustain and study colon stem cells by growing them live outside the body in lab-plates.
Spinal Cord – The Allen Institute for Brain Science announced the discovery of a new class of cells in the spinal cord that act like neural stem cells. This discovery may perhaps bring us a step closer to the use of adult stem cells to heal spinal cord injuries.
Aging – As the human body ages it declines in its ability to regenerate organs and tissues. A recent adult stem cell study suggests there may be a way to reverse the aging process which in turn could lead to new discoveries in regenerative medicine.
Treatment of ALS – Hospitals will begin clinical studies using adult bone marrow stem cells to treat patients suffering from ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis – also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). The trials will begin in Jerusalem and Boston.
Alaska Parental Notification – Legislation recently passed in Alaska requiring parental notification when a minor seeks an abortion – has been challenged in the courts by Planned Parenthood.
Poll – A CNN poll showed that 62% of Americans favored banning all or most abortions.
Alabama – The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously to expand legal protections for the unborn child by declaring the state’s “wrongful death” statute applied to the unborn child at any stage of development. This ruling still does not provide protection for the unborn child from abortion. However, with this ruling Alabama joins nine other states in permitting wrongfuldeath action pre-viability of the child.
Great Britain – Britain’s largest abortion provider stirred controversy with the announcement that he now provides text-message reminders to his patients of their scheduled abortion.
Ectopic Pregnancies – In a study first published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology it was reported that incorrectly-diagnosed ectopic (tubal) pregnancies with the subsequent administration of a powerful drug has led to miscarriage, abortion, or the birth of severely-deformed infants. Researchers cited eight recent cases from the United States and Canada in which the misdiagnosis occurred primarily from inexperienced readings of ultrasound images.
Chemical Abortion Experience – In a survey of women who chose to end their pregnancy chemically using mifepristone (more commonly known as RU-486), 53% said the experience was worse than expected. They reported experiencing more pain, more vaginal bleeding and more psychological problems than their counterparts who had surgical abortions during the same time period in the second trimester of the pregnancy.
Planned Parenthood Investigation – The largest single provider of abortion in America, Planned Parenthood, is under congressional investigation into the manner it has handled cases of sexual abuse and sex-trafficking as well as the possible misuse of federal money to pay for abortions.
Quebec – In Quebec, a prominent attorney has vowed to use the case of a 47-year-old woman with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, to challenge Canadian law which makes assistance in a suicide illegal. The law was challenged 19 years ago when another ALS victim sought assistance in Canada for her suicide. At that time the court ruled the state had a “fundamental interest in protecting human life.” The Court argued the state was obliged to “protect the vulnerable” and that obligation outweighed the rights of the individual to self-determination. In bringing this new case to the court the attorney believes the change in the court make-up and the public attitude about assisted suicide has changed.
Bulgaria – Meanwhile, legislators in Bulgaria struck down an attempt to legalize assisted suicide or euthanasia in that country by a vote of 59 – 13 with 29 abstentions.
Australia – Efforts to legalize assisted suicide in Australia have met with opposition from the Australian Medical Association and the Law Society. The doctors and lawyers issued a joint statement opposing measures to make it legal to obtain a doctor’s assistance to commit suicide.
Massachusetts – The movement to legalize assisted suicide continues in the United States. The Massachusetts Attorney General certified a ballot initiative for 2012 called the Massachusetts “Death with Dignity Act.” Currently, the states of Oregon and Washington allow assistance to commit suicide.
Edmonton Case – A 19-year-old woman secretly gave birth to a baby boy, strangled him with her underwear and threw the child’s body into a neighbor’s yard. Though originally convicted of murder, her charge was downgraded to infanticide by a judge who said: “While many Canadians undoubtedly view abortion as a less than ideal solution to unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancy, they generally understand, accept, and sympathize with the onerous demands pregnancy and childbirth exact from mothers, especially mothers without support.” The mother will not have to go to jail. How true the leap of logic shifts from taking life inside of the womb to taking life outside of the womb.
Pain-Relief Drugs and Miscarriage – As is often the case, medicine that helps in one area causes problems in another. Such is the case reported in a recent study in which the use of anti-inflammatory drugs more than doubles the risk of a miscarriage. More precisely, the Canadian Medical Association Journal reported women faced a 2.4 times increased chance of miscarriage after taking any type or dosage of over-the-counter painkiller. The study looked at any type and dosage of non-aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen.
Excess Blood Vessels – The brain contains a blood-brain barrier that serves as a type of sieve to prevent viruses from entering brain tissue during natural blood flow to the brain. Research had previously identified amyloid beta as a protein fragment present in Alzheimer’s patients, but no one knew how it got in the brain. A newly-released study may have the answer: it appears Alzheimer’s victims experience a surge of excess blood vessels which is believed to compromise the blood-brain barrier and allows amyloid beta to accumulate around neurons, eventually killing them. Researchers now suggest following treatments that deal directly with blood vessel growth.
Assisted Reproductive Technology
Unregulated Sperm Donations – Sperm banks collect donated supplies of sperm from donors. The donated sperm is then used either to impregnate women or as part of in-vitro fertilization procedures. Ironically, it is a largely unregulated practice. In the United States there is no defined law regulating sperm banks. At best the American Society of Reproductive Medicine provides recommended guidelines but not much more. The issue surfaced recently when it was revealed one donor’s sperm may have fathered at least 150 children. This revelation came on the heels of the discovery of another donor who fathered 24 children, all of whom are now at risk of a fatal hereditary heart defect. Another donor with Asperger’s Syndrome fathered at least 22 children who now show signs of autism.
Not the Right Fit – Sperm banks are turning down the number of donations from red-headed men since “boutique parenting” has shown a lack of demand for children with red hair. Also, an Italian court caused controversy when it refused to permit a 70-year-old father and a 57-year-old-mother to adopt their IVF-produced 18-month-old toddler because they were “too old” and “too selfish” to parent the daughter. The court stated the couple demonstrated “a narcissistic need to have a child” and showed “indifference with regard to the child’s perspective.” The court urged the parents to place the girl for adoption.
Report – AARP along with the Commonwealth Fund and the Scan Foundation released a report entitled, “Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Adults, People with Physical Disabilities, and Family Caregivers” (LTSS) in which they ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia on the following four factors: 1) Affordability and Access; 2) Choice of Setting and Provider; 3) Quality of Life and Quality of Care; and 4) Support for Family Caregivers. The top five states were: 1) Minnesota; 2) Washington; 3) Oregon; 4) Hawaii; and 5) Wisconsin. The bottom five were: 47) Indiana; 48) Oklahoma; 49) West Virginia; 50) Alabama; and 51) Mississippi.
Timing – Regulatory changes regarding the timing of the retrieval of organs from a corpse has stirred controversy. The rules originally required organ retrieval to a two-minute wait time after a patient’s heart stopped beating. The two minutes allowed additional time in the event the heart would start beating again. Proposed changes include the elimination of the two-minute wait period. Another precautionary measure has been proposed to eliminate the consideration of any organ transplant recipient before doctors and family members have independently concluded to stop trying to save the patient. Under the new regulations, a patient can be evaluated of his or her worthiness as an organ donor even while efforts are made to preserve the life. The proposed lift of the ban could cause a shift in the focus from saving the patient to maximizing the circumstance in harvesting the patient’s organs.
This is just a sampling of what has made headlines in life issues in only 30 days. There have been scores of minor headlines in this field as well as the happenings in the area of other family issues, marriage, homosexual rights, etc. Christian Life Resources continues to carefully keep watch of these contentious issues.